20210521-LOC-Peterborough

The Peterborough Town House

PETERBOROUGH — Plans for a new shooting range at the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club have hit a roadblock after town officials said the project would violate local zoning rules.

Tim Herlihy, Peterborough’s code enforcement officer and zoning administrator, ruled earlier this month that the club’s proposal — which would replace an existing range at its Jaffrey Road property — cannot be “grandfathered” into prior privileges for shooting on that site.

The new range is sought to help the gun club resolve a host of legal and financial problems, President Ken Caisse told The Sentinel last month.

In a Nov. 3 letter to Caisse, however, Herlihy said that because the existing range had been moved without town approval from its original east-west orientation to face north, the club lost its permission for an east-west range. As a result, Herlihy wrote that the existing range — which has not been active since 2018 — is an unlawful use in the town’s rural district, where recreational facilities are permitted only by special exception.

Peterborough’s planning board told Caisse at a Nov. 8 hearing that to proceed with the renovation project, the gun club would need to first get approval for its existing range from the zoning board of adjustment. The club had previously requested that the planning board approve its new range, prompting that hearing.

Gun club officials could also appeal Herlihy’s decision to the zoning board, he said in his letter, which was posted online prior to the recent hearing.

Caisse did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

He told The Sentinel last month that the new range, which would have targets at four distances and would be designed to reduce environmental impact, is meant to help boost the gun club’s declining membership. Caisse said additional membership revenue is needed to resolve legal and financial problems, which include nearly $650,000 the club owes abutters after a judge ruled last year the club had unlawfully encroached on their property.

In his recent letter, Herlihy said aerial imagery of that site shows the gun club reoriented and expanded its shooting range between 2010 and 2015 without asking to alter its prior permission for a nonconforming use of that property.

To continue using the range and possibly build a new one, Herlihy said, the gun club would also need to obtain a special exception due to a 2019 zoning amendment that prohibits outdoor ranges in Peterborough.

Caisse had said the new range would be lawful under those new rules because its footprint is similar to the existing range and could those be grandfathered into the updated regulations.

“We were already there. We were already practicing,” he said last month. “If we were to do any more than this, we would have to be indoors.”

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.